Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Oh woad is me

I finished the first Christmas boy sock.

Here is lies on a clump of woad leaves, demonstrating the colour BLUE.

In case anyone had forgotten what blue looks like.

You may remember that I was growing woad, discovered it was a "noxious weed" and dug it up before it took over the planet? Ah well, I was not quite fast enough with the spade and it self-seeded, producing 5 juicy clumps of leaf.

So I thought I should continue with Plan A and harvest it for its dye.

First pick your leaves, tear them, simmer for ten minutes, squeeze out the goodness (discarding the pulp into the compost heap) then whisk briskly with soda ash until a thick blue foam develops. Allow to settle. So far so good.
But then, you have to separate the blue sediment from the 10 litres of opaque green liquid, decant into clear glass jars, allow to settle again and rinse repeatedly until the water is clear and the indigo is left at the bottom of the jars.
Only after that do you have the joy of brewing the pigment with 5 litres of (ahem!) stale urine... for two weeks! Needless to say, I have two male volunteers who want to help me dye my yarn. Sigh. Boys eh?
But I seem to be stuck at the "opaque green liquid in glass jars" phase. Perhaps my whisking was not brisk enough?
However, I had two batches. So I experimented with the second. I tried brewing some Hipknits handspun in the pot, then plunging it into cold water. Nothing much happened. Tried adding Bicarbonate of Soda (not sure why) and nope, nothing much happened! So I tried adding vinegar to the water - MUCH more exciting - the wool turned mauve!
However, after a gentle wash and wind-drying, the skein is just a warm purplish beige. Not exactly the dark indigo blue my Pictish ancestors might have expected.

So my volunteers are lining up to pee in the pot. I am beginning to regret this. I think I may move the vat into the Bothy as I imagine it will be somewhat... fragrant. Naturally hand-dyed yarn anyone?



RooKnits said...

Boys! Fingers crossed for blue after all of that effort!

Segwyne said...

I have never dyed before, but I seem to remember reading that you need a mordant to fix the color to the yarn. A cast iron pot should do the trick, or a heavy alumin(i)um pot. I also seem to recall that the choice of mordant has an effect on the final color. It could be that the vinegar acted as a bit of a mordant.

This might be a bit scholarly, but these people know their stuff. It seems all pages on this site have the same address. There is an index on the left, just scroll down to Textile Arts, then in the main frame, click on the "dyeing" link. Lots of useful information.

wazz said...

but the colour of the liquid in the pan is fantastic! Bring on the pee.

Mad about Craft said...

I'd love hand dyed yarn as long it isn't still 'fragrant' I know that type of fragence in all its guises from work and thats enough!

I know a song about woad, my Dad used to teach it to his Scouts, if I pushed him I bet he could remember the words.

motopacsman said...

My, you are creative and adventurous!